We never thought we’d say this, but a string of 60-degree days in December sort of has us wishing for snow. According to the forecast, that doesn’t appear to be in the cards anytime soon — but even if we had a sudden, surprise blizzard, relentlessly urban Manhattan is still a far cry from rustic-chic Aspen. Unless you head to Eataly in the Flatiron District that is — where they’ve recently transformed their rooftop restaurant, Birreria, into a winter-long, Italian Alps-inspired pop-up called Baita; the Piedmontese term for a small ski lodge.
The sky-high eatery may not be perched at the snow-capped top of a frozen slope, but with its sparkling, retractable glass roof, the views are still prime; overlooking the festive, holiday bustle of Fifth Avenue. Dotted with heaters, and with wool blankets draped over each seat (not like you’ll need them, as long as the temps stay unseasonably steamy), it’s an idyllic escape from the constantly mobbed market that occupies the building below. It’s also the city’s best new Christmas destination — take that, Rockefeller Center — adorned from floor to ceiling with aromatic sprigs of pine, drifts of glistening ‘snow,’ and even a dazzling trio of antler-bedecked trees, ringed by rough-hewn Adirondack chairs strewn with white fur throws.
Of course, Baita prizes food and drink as much as it does décor (we’re talking about Eataly, after all), so settle in with a Bombardino (brandied eggnog), Gnomo Cioccolato (Frangelico and Galliano-spiked hot chocolate), or mug of mulled, star anise-scented wine, while you peruse the massive menu. Ordering the Raclette service is a must; an assortment of nutty, melted cows milk cheeses served family-style, along with toasted bread, pickled vegetables, and roasted ruby potatoes. Although other homey, Northern Italian specialties are equally appealing, such as silky Wild Hive Buckwheat and Polenta, dotted with salted anchovies, Strangolapreti; feathery, housemade bread and spinach dumplings tossed with butter and earthy sage, and Cotoletta Di Vitello alla Valdostana — a crispy disc of Seckle Farm veal layered with creamy fontina, and succulent strips of prosciutto.
So if you’ve had about as much as you can take of December heat and sun, take a ski lift (ok, make that an elevator), to Baita this holiday season — an Italian-inspired winter wonderland at the tippy top of Eataly.